“Last Week Tonight” has spent significant time covering national news stories, and sometimes how the national news media covers those stories, but in his July 2 show — his last new episode until the end of the month — he thought local. Specifically he focused on local TV news stations across the country and their potentially insidious takeover by a right-wing corporation: Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is buying up local stations nationwide and mandating that certain right-wing stories and commentaries be broadcast by those stations without viewers really understanding their source. Watch John Oliver‘s take on Sinclair above.
“Cable news gets a lot of attention with their big budgets and their fancy graphics packages. Meanwhile, local news … fills an important role, finding stories that the national news is missing,” explains Oliver. “This show uses local news all the time.” But the journalistic integrity of those local broadcasts may be compromised by Sinclair, which “may be the most influential media company you’ve never heard of. Not only are they the largest owner of local TV stations in the country, they could soon get even bigger” by acquiring Tribune Media, which itself owns 42 local stations. Sinclair produces and distributes its own segments, “and that in itself is already unusual. As best we can tell, no other major owner of TV stations distributes its own commentary segments to run during local news.”
Those segments include conservative commentators complaining about liberal college “snowflakes” and multiculturalism. The company also promotes political analyses by Boris Epstein, a Donald Trump advisor who has made wild, unsubstantiated claims while acting as Trump’s surrogate on the news. And that may be harmful as Sinclair continues to expand because “there will be even more unsuspecting audience members who will be getting a heaping dose of Sinclair’s content possibly without realizing it.” In other words, local news watchers will get all of the conservative bias of Fox News with none of the transparency.
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